The Supermarket Guru Speaks

Phil Lempert, best known as the Supermarket Guru, will share his perspective and insights into the triangle of food producers, retailers and consumers at FFVA 2013 during the State of the Industry Update. The Annual Convention is set for Sept. 23-25 at The Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island.  

Living a life that’s all about food is a natural for Phil Lempert. His grandfather was a dairy farmer and his father was a food manufacturer and food broker. After graduating from Drexel University with a degree in marketing and retail management and a masters’ degree in package design from the Pratt Institute, Lempert set off on a path to where he is today, a food marketing expert, TV and radio guest and reporter, and author. Most people just know him as the Supermarket Guru.

For more than 25 years, Lempert has been a respected expert in identifying and explaining trends. He sees what’s developing today and, like a hurricane forecaster, predicts where the storms are headed.

“I chose to be the communicator who tells the consumer about what’s going on behind the supermarket shelves –  to share what I think are the opportunities for them to learn about health topics, nutrition, how to read the labels and more,” he said. “Then I expanded into writing The Lempert Report, which was about communicating to marketers about what was going on with consumers. So it was about creating that triangle with all three groups, exploring the opportunities and the paths.”

In addition to The Lempert Report, Lempert is the founder and editor of Food, Nutrition & Science; Facts, Figures & the Future; and The Food Journal. In 1995, in a trend-setting move, he founded the SupermarketGuru.com website. It is now one of the leading food and health resources on the Internet, visited by more than 9 million people each year. The site offers ratings of new food products, analyses of trends in food marketing and retail, health advice, unique recipes, nutrition analysis, allergy alerts and many other resources.

I think the key is really just being in tune with the consumer and thinking a little differently.”  -Phil Lempert

Lempert also is a contributing editor of The Supermarket News, a go-to source for major publications, and a columnist for The Chicago Sun-Times, Huffington Post and Celebrity Cooking Magazine. He has written numerous books including Being the Shopper and Healthy, Wealthy & Wise. He also has appeared on many national TV shows and news programs.

Lempert recently discussed with Harvester what he’ll be sharing at FFVA 2013 in September. “The two overarching trends are clearly that the consumer is looking for more health and wellness alternatives. So that’s great news for Florida produce,” he said. “Number two is that consumers are very concerned about cost as we continue to see the price of protein, for example, going up. So we are seeing a slight shift – and I think it will be a bigger shift – where the size of protein is decreasing on plates and the size of fruit and vegetable portions is increasing. Those trends are important.”

Another trend Lempert mentioned is that consumers really want to know where their food originates. “Obviously, domestic is much higher on the shopper’s hit list than imported. Also, those areas of the country that are known for terrific produce items, like Florida and California, are set to do very well. It’s that sort of branding that I think FFVA members need to be doing on the produce itself, with the stores and to consumers. Because when people think about Florida produce, they think of sunshine and outdoors and all those wonderful things,” he said.

“The most important point I can convey to producers is to really make an effort to understand the shopper, where that shopper is going next, how retailers are responding to that and finally, how producers need to respond to the retailers’ actions,” Lempert said.

The best way to understand the shopper is to visit supermarkets and other outlets and pay serious attention, Lempert said. He visits 10 to 15 stores every week.  He also recommends monitoring and having a presence on social media. “What it has allowed us to do very inexpensively is have our finger on the pulse of shoppers,” he said. “So be on Facebook. Be on Twitter. Look at what the conversations are about fruits and vegetables and really tap into that. Check out some of the mommy bloggers and the daddy bloggers. See what they’re talking about and learn what they as an industry need to do to satisfy their questions or their nutrition demands and certainly their flavor demands.”

“I think the key is really just being in tune with the consumer and thinking a little differently,” Lempert said.  “Because if the shopper doesn’t get what the producer does, or doesn’t understand or appreciate the nutritional value of the product, the producer loses.  They have to get the message across.”

Learn more about FFVA’s 70th Annual Convention here.

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